Thursday, January 12, 2012

Europe Trip

While I’m giving you updates (ie camera), I’ll update you on our Europe trip planning too!

I really should have known/figured that it would take a while for Ben to get on board with actually starting to book things (flights, accommodations, tours, etc) for the trip.  It took him long enough to ask for approval for the time off from his boss.  Then he was hesistant about paying for the trip (especially when I did a quick rough estimate and it looks like we’re getting back only 1/3 of a federal refund than we did last year).  But I showed him the budget and the savings plan for 2012 and he loosened up (although I did realize that we do need to work on his saving skills). Heck, we dated eleven years before getting engaged (although I can’t imagine use having gotten married any sooner than we did; but he could have proposed a few months earlier).  The kid hesitates when it comes to major commitments.

Thus far, organizing the trip has gone smoothly and is fun. I looooove having something to plan.  I’ve come up with itineraries, things to do, hotels/rental apts, etc.  Essentially Ben just has to tell me what he wants to do and see, and it’s worked into the schedule and budget.  So, after some debating and a lot of searching; it was decided that the best use of our time would be to do a multicity flight and to leave on a Thursday (instead of the originally planned Friday).  The ideal flight is non-stop to Amsterdam and non-stop from London on the way home and I’ve been watching it for a few weeks now; well really more like stalking it morning, noon, and night.  (Again, middle class me <my mom sighs>).  The flights were $938 when we started watching and rose to $944.  Last night they dropped below $900…just barely at $899.70, but I’ll take it!  It’s $90 less total (and always its $200 cheaper than I budgeted at $1000/flight). 

The downfall is that earlier this week Ben kept saying no-no, don’t book, prices will drop.  I had confidence that they wouldn’t and was on my way to convincing Ben….well, now that they did drop, he’s convinced they’re going to drop more and we shouldn’t jump on this.  However, after looked at a variety of dates with the same day and duration of our trip, I don’t think the flights would get anything lower than $884; so why risk saving $30 more when the prices are already $90 less than what they were yesterday?

I think I may just pull the plug and buy them during lunch. Eeeeeee, yay!!!  From there I can finally start to lock in on apartments.

It’s amazing, but I’m finding that renting apartments can be even cheaper than getting a private room at a hostel (which was our first thought for accommodations when we started planning).  For example, in Paris, the hotel my parents/sister stayed at and loved would be 170E per night and Ben’s sister is 150E per night.  I have a list of about six apartments, in the same areas, that I’m narrowing down from and the average price per night is 120E.  Add up a minimum difference of 30E for 4 nights; that’s 120E total and we’re paying $152 less AND we get more space; plus the opportunity to cook our own meals if decided. In Amsterdam, two of the hostels we were recommended (Flying Pig Downtown and Bulldog -aww, I admit, I would want to consider this just because of the name-) were 100E/night for the two of us in a private room. Three nights, that's 300E. I have one apartment on my list that is 245E for the 3 nights.  See what a cost savings this can be? Win-win.

I’ve found a number of rental apartment websites.  It’s really more common than I initially thought. Here are some I’ve browsed:

My favorites are definitely and  Staycity was the higher end of our desired price range and makes you sign up for an account including providing a picture and your phone number, which I don’t really like.  Although, the airbnb listings were definitely the quickest to respond (within hours).  However, I should note that I'm only consider listings that have reviews from others, the more the better.  If I like an apartment and it doesn't have reviews; I've emailed and ask for them.

I found it easiest to put my queries into Excel to keep track of everything.  I have several columns: link to rental listing, date and time I emailed originally, if there was a response: the date and name of who responded, total estimated cost in EU, cost per night in EU (this is usual when looking for new listings to compare nightly costs), total USD cost, location, links to reviews from other renters and then misc notes (like what floor the apartment is on, check-in/out time(s), attractions it’s close to, etc.).  It sounds a bit intense I know, but I love love working in Excel and this has been the easiest way for me to keep organized. 

While I’m talking about searching for things, I’ll also mention what I’ve found useful to searching for flights:
· : It gives you a variety of options (searching flexible dates, other search engines, time of day for flights, etc) and also you can set it up to send daily or weekly updates for price changes (the downfall is that it won’t send price emails for multi-city flights like ours)
· : It’s a partner of, but unlike; it will send you an email only when the price drops. Love it! (although, it is slow sometimes.  Like I saw the price drop on our flights last night and I didn’t receive an email from them until this morning)
·         Direct airlines websites

However, (like other websites) currently bug the crap out of me; but that’s about to change.  The price that Cheapoair shows is not the total price, as it excludes taxes and fees.  It’s really common and a lot of major airlines like Continental and American do the same thing.  You think that prices are cheap/have dropped and then when you get to the final price there’s another absorbent cost for fees and taxes.  Yesterday SIL sent me an email from American about a Europe flight sale; but if you read carefully it said *Taxes and fees excluded; up to $210 extra.

Luckily, like I posted, that’s all about to change.  Starting on Jan. 26th, a law goes into effect that requires all airline tickets to be shown with their total price, including taxes and fees.  I’d heard this a while ago and didn’t think much of it, but now that we’ve started looking at EU flights, I definitely understand the frustration and reason behind the law.  However, I still hope to have our tickets for this trip booked by then, if not by the end of today!


  1. Thank you for the suggestions on Apartment websites in Europe. We are going to Italy for our honeymoon and needed to find a site like this. Thanks so much!!

    1. Happy to help Sarah! Where are you guys going in Italy and when?! My SIL/her husband went in May and had an amazing time! We want to go, but think Italy is an entire trip in itself.

  2. We are going in the middle of October..We are only going or a week, and decided to just concentrate on Rome. We figured we wouldn't have enought time to see much else, and that there is plenty to se ein Rome to keep us busy


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